Monday, November 21, 2005

Redskins Drop Game to Raiders

"And hopes that were high in the heat of September,
wither and die in the cold of November."
-- NFL Films

This was the game where illusion died; where the Redskins went from post-season contenders to pretenders. The team mastered the 3-6 Oakland Raiders in the first half. They were up 13-3; made both Kerry Collins and Randy Moss seem irrelevant; stuffed Lamont Jordan. The defense even forced a rare turnover when Lamar Marshall, an MSU grad, intercepted a pass and ran for a touchdown.

That was the first half. Oakland scored on their opening series of the second half. They shut down the Redskins offense and won the game on a late fourth quarter field goal.

Two games back of the division race with six games to go is not the thing. The team can recover from that. What's distressing is the manner of their play. Opposing defenses seen to have figured them out. The Redskins have no effective response.

Inconsistency is the bane of this team. They score 35 points on the number one defense (Tampa Bay), but can't score in the second half against Oakland's 24th ranked defense. By comparison, the Giants and the Cowboys are getting the job done. That's why they are both 7-3 and we are not. The Skins are not playing high caliber ball consistently enough to make a playoff run, or go far if they got there.

Injuries hurt. There are news reports that Gregg Williams acknowledged the defense is making too many adjustments to cover for injured starters. Cornelius Griffin is missed on the defensive line. When Sean Taylor is out, the middle of the Redskins defense is vulnerable. Without pressure in the middle, the cornerbacks are exposed. Walt Harris is not a strong single cover guy. Receiver Taylor Jacobs is a journeyman, like the other recent Florida players on the roster.

That's part of the test. The season challenges your system's talent, character and bench strength. You can lose a game, but win the season. That means two-three-four game win streaks. Players overcome adversity and injury. Your gameplay system exploits the other team's gameplay system more often than not. Guys come off the bench and take it up a notch. That's how teams make the playoffs. Now the Skins have to go on a four or five game streak. As a team and as individuals, characters are being tested. Bench warmers have to max their opportunities. Do that and the Skins have a shot.

I'm thinking 9-7 is still possible. But, 8-8 looks the more likely finish.

No comments: